Ever wonder how a DS could be better connected to their churches and pastors? How about if we tripled the number of DSs so that in Western PA they would each serve about 30 churches?
Now before you get to excited and start talking about how we could never afford that hear me out.
What would happen if a DS actually served as one of the pastors in a cluster of churches and was expected to preach at least 40 Sundays a year? Even with 4 weeks' vacation and a week of serving at a camp for a week they would still have 7 Sundays to be in other local churches or travel for connectional business. What it would do is mean that not only was the DS living in the community in which their pastors were serving but they would have opportunity to know the churches and pastors at an unheard of level. They would also be able to keep in touch with what it means to serve at the local church level and meet the demands of local church ministry.
I have joked for years that when a new DS goes to Lake Junaluska for training in August after they start their sentence, I mean term, that they get a lobotomy and when they come back they no longer know their colleagues, friends or remember much about what it is like to serve as a local church pastor. Having spent many years in management before I became a pastor I understand the need to draw lines and separate yourself from those that work for you. I also know how important it is to keep in touch with those same people and to find ways to remain connected to those in the trenches.
Years ago when I was teaching management courses at the college level and managing a chain of auto parts and hardware store, there was a management technique that was being promoted that was called management by walking around. It meant that even senior level management would go out to the work place and talk to those closest to the customer or the production. While managing the chain of stores I made sure I practiced what I taught in my classroom and spent a lot of time talking to the people in the warehouses, on the sales floor and talking to my customers. I often learned things that I would have never learned sitting in my office or in meetings with other management staff.
The money we would save on housing and part time service as a DS would help us bring a new level of commitment to the local church that would have strong leadership of some excellent pastors that are often put in this leadership role. The Conference would no longer have to be in the parsonage business. It would mean that there needed to be more on line communication between the Cabinet but I believe that they would be far more effective when they did gather around the table if they were in intimate touch with the pastors and churches they supervise.
I am just asking us to be looking outside the box when we decide how to fulfill our call to "make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."